San Diego Marathon
5 hrs 36 minutes
1 lifetime of knowing that I did this!
So it's been 3 days since I ran my first full marathon and my muscles are no longer sore but are very fatigued. Each step I take and every time I sit down I am reminded that I just ran 26.2 miles. It was an incredible experience that I will never ever forget. It was hard...harder than I could have imagined but not nearly what I dreaded if that makes any sense.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
It started in January after I ran the half marathon. I thought that's a good distance and I did all right in the race...but there is always that "what's next" feeling I get after I accomplish something significant and at the time I didn't really have an answer. Then at the beginning of February (thank you rock and roll advertisers) I get an e-mail about signing up for the FULL marathon in San Diego in May. I ignored it...I mean I just barely made it through a half - who wants to run a full marathon? That's just ridiculous! Then they sent me another e-mail and it said if I run the San Diego full marathon I get a shiny medal in ADDITION to the one I get for completing the race - one that says 39.3 adding my half and my full together...whoa WAIT you mean a SHINY OBJECT could be mine?? I wish I could tell you it's was just the thought of pushing myself, or that it would be a statement of just how far I had come, and while it's of course all of that...it's really the thought of something shiny that gave me that nudge to do it! (Yes its amazing it takes so little to talk me into doing something that is absolutely crazy!) So I talked to a friend and we decided we were going to do it! (GULP what did I just sign up for???)
When I signed up for the race I was thinking I just did 13 miles and had a pretty solid 10 mile base. It would be easy to keep adding on more miles...so I used basically the same running program that had helped me complete the half and about 1 month after the half I started training for the full. How shocked was I to find that after a few weeks taking it easy - 10 miles wasn't so easy anymore! However I had already paid my entry fee and someone else was going w/me...oh and I happened to pick a marathon where there is NO HALF!!! It was the full or nothing - and I'm not exactly one to back down once I've committed. So every Saturday I did my long runs. I upped the miles during the week. It got the point where I would get up run and go to work and come home and run some more. I was logging 35-49 miles a week the last month before tapering. I was also trying to keep up my strength training as well but I ended up pushing myself too much. I backed off the weight training, I quit kickboxing, and I dropped my spin to 2 days a week (yup was doing all the PLUS running!). Fatigue set in for most of April and I was not pleasant to be around. I was moody I was cranky - everything seemed more difficult than it was. The only thing I felt good doing was running. It's funny it became my escape from the stress of the "real world" that was most likely being caused by the toll of overtraining! My 20 mile run was difficult - so difficult -the first half went great - the next 6 miles went ok and then the last 4 I crumbled - it was 90 degrees+ out and I was hot and tired and I struggled a lot! I got through it but this was not the way I wanted to feel at the marathon. The doubts if I was doing enough or had done enough started to creep in. I got some advice from fellow sparkers, I read everything I could find, it all said I was fine and still on track...but that nagging self doubt can really grab hold and worry set in for the last 3 weeks. There was nothing more I could do. I focused on feeding myself the right foods, hydrating, and having the best short runs I could have in those last few weeks.
I wake up at 3:45am - holy smokes it's early. I'm almost glad to be awake. It was a tossing and turning sort of night. My stomach was in knots. I had laid everything out the night before and so no thought was required. I got dressed did a check check and double check of my outfit...right shoes, right socks, heart rate monitor, visor, sunglasses, sun block, water bottles, glide, chapstick: yes and yes and yes - had it all! There wasn't parking at the beginning of the race so my friend dropped my fellow runner and I at the starting line and headed to park by the finish...he was going to try and make it back before the race but no guarantees. Now I'm REALLY nervous. We are out in front of ALL these "real" runners. The first girl we stand next to is talking to a guy and he's like "oh great to see you - what corral are you in? She's like #2 and he's like oh WOW - I'm all the way back in #8" ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!???!!! We're in #17!!!! As my friend pointed out - even added together their corrals don't equal ours!! LOL! not exactly confidence building...next it's on to coffee...it's chilly it's wet out - not raining but a very fine mist...coffee - warm, calms nerves, BETTER! Then my friend finds us - thank goodness he made it back to see me before the race...he is my rock and totally believes in me, even when I don't so really felt like I needed him to be there at the start w/me. Then it's time to get in the corrals...#17 here we come. I'm almost in tears...can I really do this? When will the nerves quit? I'm shaking...my friend running w/me is telling me I'll do great...my friend watching is telling me to smile and all I can think of is "HOLY S**T I'm in WAY OVER MY HEAD" but too late to back out now...and we're off....
It starts...we're running...my friend and I are in step - good pace...FINALLY the nerves settle. I'M REALLY DOING THIS. My body takes over and it's just running. At about mile 1 we come to the crest of a hill and looking in front of us the street is full of runners as it dips down and climbs back up a small hill and curves around the bend all you see is a sea of runners...I have to say it's one of the most amazing sights ever...we are all in the same race, same place and I had to grab my phone and snap a picture of all those runners in front of me!
The miles go by really fast right now we're taking turns pacing off each other...the streets are full of cheering people the roads are full of runners but there is room to run. You are getting support on all sides. My friend and I are still running together...Just short of mile five - about an hour in there is a guy along the side telling us "relax your shoulders, you can do this, every 5 miles I want you to relax your shoulders" So I double check and relax my shoulders...my friend takes a walking break...I keep running. I'm on my own now. It's a really long downhill we're on...downhills kill my quads so I'm trying to hold back some but I'm feeling great! My body has no aches...it's just running strong...I'm right on track to pull out a 5 hour marathon. I had that stuck in my head as a goal I wanted...although I had never run close to that before the race...the bands are great - loud and supportive - calling out runners names and numbers...playing familiar songs...we start an uphill climb and I'm doing great...feeling confident, solid...mile 9 is coming up about halfway up this HUGE climb. My friend and I had talked about that being a possible spot to see me but it's on a highway and looked hard to get to. I had little hope that he would be there...but I look up and right across from the mile 9 marker there he was standing on the top of the side fence so find me. I yell out and he see's me! He's yelling "you're doing great!" He takes a picture of me as a running (YEAH action shot!)
woohoo I've got this hill licked! easy breezy - my heart rate is about 166 not too bad...then I started the descent on the other side of the hill. Its long and I'm trying to keep myself reigned in but it's hard. I'm feeling great. I'm getting water at most of the stations - drink half pour the other half down my shirt. The weather is perfect today. It's overcast and misting and no sun in sight. Not cold but cool and feels great! I'm still on pace w/each mile 9, 10 (did my shoulder check!), 11, 12, 13.1 - WHOA I beat my half marathon pace by 2 minutes...UH OH - I knew it then -- I was pushing too fast. I tried to slow down but about mile 14 I started to feel the quads. They were achey...sore already...I have 12 more miles to go...it's another uphill from mile 14 to 15 and I've slowed down a good bit trying to ease the demand on my quads. I pass by a girl at mile 15 laying face down on the ground screaming in pain and won't let anyone touch her. There's a med rushing towards her and the runners that stopped to help said "she's cramping" OMG - that's what that can do? she was is agony and I have to say it put a little chink in my confidence! I double checked my fluid levels...had a salt packet...just in case...I had my GU at hour 1 and hour 2 so I knew I was ok but...darn doubt thing again...now I'm feeling pain in my quads. It's more than an ache. I'm afraid if I stop I won't get going again so I keep pushing 10 miles to go...every step is an effort. I'm bribing myself - "make to the next mile and you can rest" my time starts to slip - first I'm 20 seconds off pace...then I'm 1 minute off....it's ok I can make that up later....then I'm 5 minutes off pace and I'm trying to convince myself I can just make it to mile 20...crazy goal of a 5 hr marathon dropped...no problem I'll do it un under 5:30. Mile 17 and 18 were the most touching miles. We are running through these neighborhoods and the people had come out to not only cheer us on but they had fruit for us! Watermelon from the first little girl...all the kids lined up w/their big bowls of fruit for the runners...oranges as I round the next corner....oh my goodness it tasted sooo good. My eyes are welling up...probably from the exhaustion that was setting in but it was incredible to see all these people and their kids out supporting us! They got me through those 2 miles...I was like "this is hard I'm not going to make it ...oh look ottor pop...yummy....then back to "this is sooo hard...push push push..." (again it takes so little to distract me!) lol! Mile 19 -- I'm seriously hurting by now. I've slowed but I'm not stopping...I'm dragging...dragging to point people have noticed and I'm getting lots of encouraging shouts from fellow runners and from the sidelines...(thank you if you were one of those!). I see a man on a stretcher w/the oxygen tubes in his nose...they are loading him into the ambulance and he appears to be unconscious! I'm getting scared that I can't finish this. My heart rate is spiking to 172 on the uphills...but NO I HAVE TO FINISH!!! I'm in pain on every downhill...the uphills and the flats are ok but the uphills...I come around a curb and I see spots...my vision is a little blurry and this lady along the road shoves 2 orange pieces in my hand...she just had a little ziplock bag of them and I thanked her and by the time I finished the orange my vision was back to normal...(thank goodness she was there!). It's mile 21 we are on this stretch behind sea world and it's a small road and people are still all along the way...only 5 more miles...I've gotten this far I have to finish...keep pushing. I'm trying to zone out...I canít find a comfortable place in my mind w/out feeling the pain so I focus on watching other runners. There are so many more people walking now...runners have ice saran wrapped to their legs...others are hobbling and limping. I have got to keep going. I'm still at a 5:30 pace...then I see it...the 5:30 pacer paces me....I try to keep up...I do for about a half a mile...but I can't stay w/him. I'm almost in tears...my eyes are watering...this girl cheering the Team in Training catches my eyes and says "hang in there bright eyes"...sooo I tossed silly goal number 2 out the door who cares what time I finish in - as long as I finish...I was still upset the pain was in each step now. I've been sore after a race but never in the middle of one. I'm coming around the corner for mile 23...I'm exhausted...my legs are shot...I've never felt that everything in my body hurt before. My nerves were shot - I seriously thought I was going to loose it then...I start chanting push push push...talking to myself...anything to keep me distracted and moving...then mile 24 my body started walking...my brain was saying run but my legs were walking...I tried to start running 2 times in the first couple minutes but I couldn't keep it up...I'm crying now. This is insanity to put your body through this. A runner passes me and looks back and says "happy tears lady happy tears you are almost there and you are going to finish this". That makes me cry a little harder...so away went silly goal number 3 (to run every step of the marathon)...I walk about 8-10 minutes - most of mile 24...then I see mile 25 and I think - there is NO WAY I'm not finishing this running hard...so I start out and it hurts...pain like I've never experienced before...it takes every bit of willpower to gets these legs moving...but we're moving...and another guy looks back at me and says "you got this" and you know what I did! I don't remember much of the last mile.2...it hurt I know that but I refused to not run it in and I refused to be crying when I crossed the finish line...I sucked it up I toughed it out and as we crossed onto the marine base I knew I had less than a half mile to go...push push push I tell myself again...there military police high fiving us as we entered the base...I can't feel my legs...who cares...they are still running for me...I see it...the finish line...I can't even look at the sides for my friend I only see the finish...I just crossed the 26 mile point... just .2 of a mile to go...push push push and as I push myself over I look up w/a smile for the camera....after all who cares what I felt like in mile 21-25...I just successfully achieved the real goal that I set out for...I completed a marathon by giving it every bit of effort that I could. I gave it my all and that is really all that counts! As I cross the finish and find my friend -- the tears don't stop..he's saying he's proud of me and I'm just crying - from relief, from exhaustion, from the OMG factor I really did just do this. I don't think I really believed until I crossed the finish line that I could do it...So many people run a marathon for a cause or in honor of someone else..I thought I was running it just for me...but then I realized...no I was running it for everyone that believed in me, for everyone that has supported me on this journey to change my life, and most of all for anyone that thinks this is impossible and they could never do it...trust me - if I can do this - anyone can...you just have to make the choice to make those changes in your life that get you on your way.
The pain from the race has faded...as has the memory of the pain while running...but the experience is burned in my mind forever! I'm already thinking of things I can do differently for the next one...yes the next one. Apparently pushing your body to the limit and coming back from it alive has it's appeal...after all I'll probably get another something shiny to make it all worth it! LOL!